When I was a kid, my parents drove us out to visit our relatives on the home place pretty much every weekend, and sometimes during the week as well. My grandparents lived on what everyone called The Old Home Place, and my uncle Bill and aunt Gina lived down the road on why my folks called “Bill’s Place,” but which I understood in the sort of dim way that kids do that it was also part of the Home Place. Not to be confused with the River Place, where my mom had been born, now uninhabited but still part of the farm.
We passed other places – the Thurman Place, the old Kessler Place, the Graner Place (Graners long gone, now occupied by McCreerys, and in the slow process of becoming the McCreery Place). In between were mere houses, occupied by people we didn’t know, or by people we knew but who were yet too brief in their occupancy to merit a Place.
When you had a Place, you were somebody. You were probably just as poor as everybody else – my grandparents’ place was tiny – but people knew who you were, and where you lived. Your Place didn’t change much. Maybe an addition when extra children necessitated it, but the essential plan didn’t change. The house, the barn, the sheds, the pond, the pastures, all existed in a slowed-down version of time, one in which change happened, but on a different rhythm than the rest of the world. Change was more measured, deliberate, its implications considered more broadly. Other farmers considered my grandfather pretty innovative in his time; he was an early adopter of terracing and other practices advocated by the county agent. But certainly no one would ever have called him hasty.
Needless to say, I don’t have a Place, and at this point in my life probably never will. The contemporary world, and my adjustment to it, doesn’t permit that. But I know that this is a trade and not an unalloyed gain.